Day games usually equal no batting practice. I figured as much and I was right (especially after the game the previous evening was a four-hour, 15-10 epic duel). When I got to the stadium I ran in through the Left Field Gate and saw four Angels playing catch… and a dozen A’s tossing and stretching. I figured my odds were better with the A’s so I went around the park to the first base side. When I got there I waited for an overthrow or for some pair of A’s to finish up. A couple of players finished throwing to my left… but this is the Oakland Athletics in September. Who the heck knows who’s on the team? I looked down at my roster after spotting a big 62 on one of the player’s backs. Clay Mortensen. I called out, “Hey, Clay! Over here, Clay.” He turned, now about twenty feet from me, and I held up my glove. He threw it right over the other ten people nearby and right to me. I’d imagine he was fairly pleased that someone knew his name… thanks, Clay.
After that I lined myself up with the duo of Henry Rodriguez (foreground) and Jon Meloan (waaaayy off in the background) as they long-tossed to each other. There had already been one overthrow from this tandem and there would be another. But it would happen after I’d moved away. I didn’t see what happened but I moved right (closer to the foul pole) and then quickly turned around when I heard the sound of a ball hitting seats and people rushing toward it. Two guys were running for the ball which was rolling down aisle after aisle as they tried to find it. I sprinted over, hurdled a row of seats… then hurdled another one and caught up to the ball. Ball #2 on the day! That’s about what I’ve been snagging this season when there’s been no BP. I was in good shape. I saw someone throwing in the bullpen so I ran up there.
When I got there Trevor Cahill was throwing a bullpen session as Curt Young watched. A kid dressed in black (who’s always around Angel Stadium… as are his little friends/brothers) asked Curt Young if he had a baseball. His reply was, “He’s got one for ya,” gesturing to Cahill. Then he left. Cahill tossed a ball to the kid in black and one to another kid nearby… but at least I got his autograph on a ticket stub.
I ran down to the third base side of the field as Matt Palmer finished throwing with… Kevin Jepsen?
Anywho, neither of them tossed their baseball to anybody. Strange. I did make eye contact with Palmer but he just headed into the dugout with the ball.
I had some time to kill after that so I checked out the Team Store briefly, got my free soft drink for being a designated driver, then went to my assigned seat… just to take this panoramic photo:
Eventually the players came back out to the field, including Nomar Garciaparra. He was the first one out to stretch and after he finished he signed a few autographs. I thought about trying to squeeze into the long line quickly forming to my right but then I noticed that Bobby Crosby was playing catch with Mark Ellis. Well, they finished and Crosby had the ball in his glove. Everyone was heading toward Nomar and Crosby was heading the opposite way–toward the dugout. Nobody seemed to care about his baseball… except me. So I simply asked him for it and he lobbed it right to me. Yes! Ball #3 on the day and that set a record for me for day games with no BP. It’s an obscure record that nobody but me cares about… but it’s a record.
Daric Barton finished throwing right in front of me but ignored my request for a ball. Oh, well. That was all the action as far as pregame stuff. I found a seat. And the Angels (with Joe Saunders pitching) took the field:
I switched between a few different seats near the dugout. In the bottom of the third inning Maicer Izturis grounded out to end the frame. Daric Barton came jogging toward the dugout and I was standing in the aisle in about the third row. I let the few kids that wanted to run up to the dugout do so. I didn’t steal the best spot, I didn’t push anyone… I just stood up and stepped into the aisle. I called, “Daric! Up here!” And he tossed me a great, rubbed up gamer. My fourth ball on the day. Nice…
That would be my last ball of the day but I stayed the whole time. Saunders pitched well (until the seventh) and both Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli homered:
I had considered trying for home run balls on this particular date but I was glad I didn’t when the only two homers hit went to places I wouldn’t have been… a tunnel
and a section past the bullpens. Instead, I tried for foul balls from my seat on the field level:
But I wasn’t close to any.
The game was still a lot of fun though. Saunders pitched very well… through six. In the seventh he was awful. He pitched to five guys and didn’t record an out. Luckily, the bullpen was able to help him out. The Angels were up 5-0 and they managed to hold off an A’s rally when Maicer Izturis snuck a double just fair down the right field line…. he took third on the throw:
I was behind the Angel dugout as Brian Fuentes closed it out for his forty-fifth save of the season. As the players came off the field I noticed a kid with a sign… a sign I’d seen earlier in the day as well. It said, “I’m 12 Today” in red letters. As he and his family headed up the steps away from the dugout I caught up with them. I asked the little dude, “Are you twelve today?”
He nodded… he had kind of a sad expression on his face.
I said, “Cool. Did you get a ball today?”
He shook his head. I looked at his parents and smiled, then I pulled the Mortensen ball from before the game out of my pocket. I handed it to him and said, “Happy Birthday, dude.” He smiled, speechless, then showed the ball to his parents. He was in a lot of shock but both his parents thanked me, then he thanked me. The dad gave me a thumbs up and said, “That’s really cool, man.”
They went off to the concourse, all really excited, then I grabbed a few ticket stubs and headed to my car. Angels 7, A’s 4, Matt 4. A good afternoon at the ballpark.